Feelings after a disaster or attack
Bereavement and trauma affect people in different ways. The feelings can be very strong and frightening, especially if a death was sudden or violent, if a body was not recovered, or if many people died. It can feel as if you are losing control or “going mad”, but for most people the feelings become less intense over time.
Numbness and shock
Many people feel a strong sense of disbelief after a major incident. You may at first feel numb or nothing at all. This is your mind’s way of protecting itself and doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.
Pain and grief
Feelings of pain and grief can be very strong, and overwhelm you at times. You may find it difficult to keep control or concentrate on daily life.
You might feel very angry, especially if an individual or group caused the incident deliberately or through negligence. You may find that you lash out at those closest to yourself.
After a traumatic incident, it’s common to feel a heightened sense of anxiety. This might mean feeling sensitive around loud noises or even having panic attacks. This can be very scary. If you find this happening to you, talk to your GP.
You may worry that you could have done something to prevent what happened. It’s also common to feel guilty if you survived when others didn’t.
A major incident, attack or disaster upsets our view of the world. You may no longer feel safe and fear for yourself and your family.
Your own trauma or injury
If you were involved in the incident yourself, or witnessed it, you may have your own trauma and injury to deal with.
Procedures and investigations
A death following a major incident will often result in police investigations, inquiries, a post mortem, trials and court attendance. You may feel frightened and frustrated by what seems like a never-ending cycle of procedures. You may feel that you have to put your grief on hold whilst focusing on court attendances and other procedures.
There’s often a lot of media attention following an accident or attack. This can carry on for months or years, starting up again on anniversaries. There may be a lot of interest in those killed and their families and friends. Such interest may sometimes be difficult, even impossible, to avoid. You may feel that the death becomes a public event rather than a private sorrow.
What can help after a disaster or attack?
Talk to someone
Talking is really helpful. It’s common for support to be put in place for survivors and families after an attack or disaster and this is a good place to start. Our Major Incident Team can also offer you support with how you’re feeling. Find out the ways we can support you.
Holding a memorial service or other ritual of remembrance for the person may help. You may be able to join together with others who have been affected, or arrange your own ways to remember.
Find out more
You can read more about traumatic bereavement and what can help you to cope in our traumatic grief section.